Places: The Power and the Glory

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1940

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: 1930’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Mexico

*Mexico. Power and the Glory, TheCountry in which the entire novel is set. The novel uses psychological realism to depict the corruption and violence associated with the government’s revolutionary vision. That vision is portrayed by an unnamed police lieutenant, who considers himself the champion of hope and betterment and says that “life will never be the same” for the next generation as he pursues a fugitive priest.

In contrast, the priest is engaged in a survival struggle to bring continuity into the spiritual lives of Mexicans who are eager to extend their vision beyond their physical and material needs. Since the Mexican police have advertised a reward for the priest, Greene shows how the theme of trustworthy relationships can sustain hope in a corrupt and threatened environment.


Plaza. Central square of an unnamed Mexican city where a bust of a former president serves as a reminder of Mexican Revolution and the nation’s independence. The plaza leads to the river port that offers the priest an opportunity to escape to Vera Cruz on the coast. However, the priest’s decision to share a drink with Mr. Tench, then a child’s summons to his mother’s deathbed, supersede his original plan of escape. In the conclusion, the plaza becomes the site of the priest’s execution after the Mexican police arrest him.


Hotel. Hotel beside the river to which a beggar leads the disguised priest for a secret drinking party with a high government official and the governor’s cousin. The government officer is clearly corrupt; he violates the prohibition law and symbolizes the internal corruption of a regime that is claiming reform through a revolutionary vision. For his part, the priest himself does not mirror the traditional acts of martyrs or saints whose stories are passed on to the Mexican children. He is an alcoholic who has violated his vow of celibacy and has an illegitimate daughter; however, he manages to dodge the authorities and continue to perform the religious rites that strengthen the Catholic population’s hope in the future.


Prison. Unsanitary and overpopulated prison in the city to which the priest is taken when he is arrested for possessing alcohol. The next morning he meets the lieutenant, who does not know his clerical status. The lieutenant discharges him and gives him money as a compassionate gesture for having cleaned up the filthy prison cells. Ironically, while the priest is in the prison, the half-caste recognizes him as a priest but conceals the discovery, so he can acquire the reward without having to share it with the prison authorities.


Plantation. Banana farm owned by an American where the priest finds a shelter and food. There, the planter’s daughter Coral secretly brings the priest brandy and keeps him hidden when the police lieutenant comes looking for him. However, when the priest returns to the plantation a second time, he finds that it has been ransacked, apparently by revolutionaries known as the Red Shirts.

Rural church

Rural church. Whitewashed village church where the exhausted priest passes out and is rescued by German American missionaries, who prepare him for a journey to a safer destination, Las Casas. Before his departure the priest holds a mass for the parish, who also request baptisms and confessions. Apparently, the villagers are so poor that they bargain with the priest over the price of religious ceremonies, yet none seems interested in the reward money for handing over the priest.

Sources for Further StudyAllott, Kenneth, and Miriam Farris. The Art of Graham Greene. New York: Russell and Russell, 1963. Envisions The Power and the Glory as a spiritual way of the cross, as the priest separates himself from his known life.Atkins, John. Graham Greene. London: Calder and Boyars, 1966. One of the most engaging studies of Greene, this book relates some of Greene’s earlier, less-known works to his major novels.Baldridge, Cates. Graham Greene’s Fictions: The Virtues of Extremity. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000. This first evaluation of Greene’s work since his death in 1991 examines his conception of God as revealed through his fiction.Bosco, Mark, S.J. Graham Greene’s Catholic Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Explores Greene’s theological vision and his achievement as a master of the Catholic novel prior to Vatican Council II.DeVitis, A. A. Graham Greene. Boston: Twayne, 1986. A fine introductory study of Greene’s major novels with a sensitive reading of Greene’s Catholicism and how it influences his fiction. More than a dozen pages dedicated to The Power and the Glory.Kelly, Richard. Graham Greene. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984. Provides a brief biography of the author, followed by analyses of his novels, thrillers, short fiction, and plays. Extends Allott’s argument that Greene’s creativity was obsessional, examining Greene’s later writings.Kurismmootil, K. C. Joseph, S.J. Heaven and Hell on Earth: An Appreciation of Five Novels of Graham Greene. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1982. Contrasts the priest as a picaresque saint with the lieutenant as socialist ascetic.Miller, R. H. Understanding Graham Greene. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990. Analyzes the priest’s physical and spiritual journey, his ministry, and his pursuit by God.Zabel, Morton Dauwen. “Graham Greene: The Best and the Worst.” In Craft and Character in Modern Fiction. New York: Viking Press, 1957. Despite the many volumes of critical material on Greene, this piece still ranks at the very top for its perceptive critical insights into Greene’s fictional world.
Categories: Places